Natural way of growing

Published 3:47 am Wednesday, June 20, 2007

By By Jeremy DeWise
Where is the soil? That is a question one might ask when they visit the garden of Bob Dunn.
Dunn has taken a rapidly-growing approach to cultivating vegetables and fruits, particularly strawberries, in a hydroponics system that requires no soil.
Instead of soil, this method of growing plants uses mineral nutrient solutions in place of soil. The roots of the plant grow in this solution or in another medium such as perlite, gravel or Rockwood. Dunn says that he uses a combination of 80 percent perlite and 20 percent coconut fiber.
In hydroponics, soil is not necessary because the water used in watering the plants is combined with nitrogen and other essential nutrients that are crucial in the growth of plants. Injection pumps supply the plants with water and other nutrients and generally use anywhere from 80 to 100 gallons of water per day. Dunn believes in a natural, organic garden and the only pesticides he uses are ladybugs and he hopes to dig a well so that he is able to stop chlorine found in water from getting to the plants.
Dunn said that he first got interested in hydroponics when he and his wife visited a strawberry farm in the Crestview, Fla. area were strawberries were grown with no soil.
"I've talked to people about this, done research on the Internet, and decided to try it out," Dunn said.
Dunn has been growing plants without soil for nearly two years, and said that it has become more than just a habit to him. He hopes to eventually open up a "you pick" strawberry patch where customers can come and pick their own strawberries.
Strawberries are not the only plant that Dunn grows with hydroponics; he has grown okra, tomatoes and even potatoes. Dunn said that all grew very successfully in this growing system. However; strawberries are what he desires to grow the most. Dunn said that he originally started off with six to 10 stacks that hold about 40 plants per stack and will be extending that number to around 2,000 in the fall.
According to Dunn, hydroponics, though it may look and sound complicated, is fairly simple and requires minimal management. Dunn believes that this method of growing plants is more effective than using soil, by that the amount of nutrients and water the plants received is all controlled by a flip of a switch and push of a button.

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